Favre stands by family

GULFPORT, Miss. - Brett Favre has stood on top of the National Football League for nearly two decades.

The Fenton, Miss., native has won three MVP awards and earned a Super Bowl ring while leading the Green Bay Packers to the world championship in 1996 at the Louisiana Superdome. Packed with a bank account the amount of which most people can only dream, the 14-year veteran looks invincible - with the world in his hand.

But the father of two daughters has faced some of life's most trying times during the last 17 months - from the loss of his biggest fan, his father Irvin, to watching his wife, Deanna, battle breast cancer.

While home for his annual Brett Favre Celebrity Golf Tournament at the Grand Bear Golf Course this past weekend and a charity concert by Tim McGraw for the Favre Fourward Foundation, Favre talked about what he called the toughest period of his life.

And remarkably, he has grown stronger through the ordeals.

"Unfortunately, everyone loses a loved one and everyone goes through tragedies. That's life," he said. "We all have our share of problems and I'm no different. It all depends on how you handle things.

"We have learned to turn setbacks and tragedies into positives."

Irvin Favre died of a heart attack before Christmas 2003 and Deanna's brother - Casey Tynes - was killed in an all-terrain vehicle accident last year. Just three days after the accident, which occurred on the Favre's property outside Hattiesburg, Deanna was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Deanna, whom Brett calls the rock of the Favre Foundation, would need six chemo treatments followed by six radiation treatments.

The chemo treatments took place during the 2004 football season as the Green Bay Packers recovered from a 1-4 mark to earn a berth in the playoffs.

Suddenly, Favre saw his life change and felt Deanna's pain, too.

"Just days after her brother lost his life, Deanna had to cope with breast cancer," Favre said. "Not that the Cancer Society needs another spokesperson to bring awareness to breast cancer, but Deanna did turn the setback into a positive.

"She told me that she can't save the world, but she will die trying. We have had our setbacks but we never asked why. If I asked why my father died or why Deanna has breast cancer, I would have to ask why I throw touchdown passes. Things happen for a reason and we're no different than anyone else. No one is immune to tragedy."

The 2004 season came to end with a wild card playoff home loss to Minnesota. As Favre walked off Lambeau Field, his thoughts turned to retirement. He knew the day would come when he would hang up the helmet for the final time. But he also knew Deanna needed him at home along with his daughters Brittany and Breleigh.

At the post-game press conference, there was plenty of speculation that Favre had played his last game. At that time, Favre considered retirement.

"I never said I was retiring," he said. "I never told anyone anything."

He then went into his own form of hibernation to avoid the media on the retirement issue while Deanna underwent chemo. He watched his wife lose her hair. More importantly, his family grew closer.

Then, through hours of prayer, Deanna was cleared after her second radiation treatment and is now in remission.

That news, which somehow failed to reach the national media, lifted Favre's spirits and eventually pushed him back to working out.

It was like a 15-year-old young man preparing for his first varsity action on the high school level.

"The ugly word is cancer," Favre said. "There are no guarantees it will not come back. Everything is fine right now.

"After the Minnesota game, my gut feeling was leaning toward not coming back, but Deanna felt all along that I was coming back. When Deanna started feeling better, things changed. Despite everything we had gone through, Deanna wanted a season to enjoy with no tragedies. She didn't get to enjoy last season and neither did I. It was time to make the announcement to come back."

Favre said he wakes every morning and counts his blessings. He might swing a club or two on the golf course but the majority of his attention is with his father, his mother Bonita and the rest of his family.

He knows there are people out there who would enjoy seeing him fail. But never say the legendary No. 4 isn't a family man.

"Deanna is my heart and soul," Favre said. "If she got cancer, it proves that anyone can. We are real and sincere and our intentions of helping people are real.

"I'm more excited about this year. I don't know if my heart has been in the game the last two years, but it is now."

Packer Report Top Stories